Kent joins Washington, Warren in banning seaplanes on Lake Waramaug
Propellers are no longer a welcome mode of propulsion on Lake Waramaug after the town of Kent voted to ban seaplanes at a town meeting June 17.
A take-off and landing on Waramaug will now earn a pilot a fine of $500 -- or $250 per aviatory operation.
Before Kent residents voted for the ban, the two other towns that border the lake -- Warren and Washington -- voted for a ban in May. The vote was overwhelmingly in support of the ban - with about 80 “ayes” and three or four “nays.”
Kent’s three selectman first voted to let seaplanes continue operating on the lake, but residents petitioned to overturn the decision.
“There’s never been a problem with seaplanes on the lake,” said Bruce Adams, Kent’s first selectman, adding that seaplane sightings were rare. “But some people that live on the lake thought it was necessary.”
Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon said the seaplane ban isn’t about disruption from the planes, but rather protecting the lake from invasive species -- particularly invasive weeds.
While Adams said he and Kent’s two other selectmen thought that other efforts-- like seaplane checks on land -- could be used instead of an outright ban, he said he’s OK with the residents’ decision to ban them. He said it won’t affect many people because seaplanes rarely land on Waramaug.
The ban will end concern about weeds that can hitch rides on unwashed plane pontoons. Invasive weeds can change Waramaug quickly and dramatically, the executive director of the Lake Waramaug Task Force, Tom McGowan said.
“Anyplace you take off from, [and] then land in another lake in Connecticut, you’re potentially bringing an invasive weed,” he said.
While all boats on Waramaug are meticulously inspected at the Washington Boat Launch, there is no way to effectively inspect seaplanes, McGowan said. Planes fly right over inspectors at the launch, the lake’s single public point of entry.
At that entry, inspectors often turn boats and trailers away, McGowan said, adding that Waramaug may be the cleanest lake in Connecticut.
The lake’s algae blooms are well-controlled, he said. And while others, such as nearby Candlewood Lake, have several invasive weeds, Waramaug only has one -- the curly-leaf pondweed.
Lyon said Waramaug protection motivated him to ban planes from the lake he grew up alongside.
“There’s a lot of work that’s been done over a long time to keep invasive weeds out of the lake,” he said.
McGowan estimates that about $40,000 annually is spent keeping Waramaug free of nasty weeds with dive teams that pick curly leaf by hand, and scientists that eye the lake for new species that could harm the lake, among other efforts.
“We’re spending a lot of money, and it’s working. Seaplanes are just another vector of the invasion,” he said.
Now that Kent has followed Warren and Washington in a seaplane ban, the air is no longer a battlefield in McGowan’s war on weeds.
And although Adams said he still thinks there could have been different ways to protect the lake without banning seaplanes, he understands why Kent residents petitioned and voted against the three Kent selectmens original decision.
“The system worked the way it’s supposed to work,” he said.